Arsenal and Liverpool serve up real English flavour

April 3, 2008

Fabregas and Lucas

Just how English was the all-English Champions League quarter-final between Arsenal and Liverpool on Wednesday?

As English as bacon and eggs? Or as un-English as a croque monsieur served up by a French chef with a sense of humour working in a Spanish tapas bar somewhere in deepest Essex.      

FIFA and UEFA are wrestling with this very problem right now. In essence they want clubs based in a country to eventually feature a majority of players developed in that country playing for the team.

But Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates was more of a Spanish-French battle than an all-English one. The only Englishmen involved were Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher of Liverpool, while Theo Walcott came on as a halftime substitute for Arsenal. Justin Hoyte was on Arsenal’s bench and Peter Crouch on Liverpool’s. 

There were four Spanish players on field at the start: Both goalkeepers (Manuel Almunia of Arsenal and Pepe Reina of Liverpool), as well as Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal and Fernando Torres of Liverpool. Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez is Spanish and Alvaro Arbeloa, an unused Liverpool sub, is also from Spain. 

Arsenal fielded three Frenchmen: William Gallas, Mathieu Flamini and Gael Clichy with Abou Diaby on the bench while coach Arsene Wenger is of course French. Of the rest, two were South Americans, three were from Africa and another seven from other European ports of call including three from the Netherlands. 

Those are just the facts. But the odd thing is this — the match was undeniably English in flavour. Although Liverpool defended like a great Italian team of old, the match was played at the typically high tempo pace seen every week in the Premier League. It had the feel of a classic encounter between two great old English rivals.

So does it matter if hardly any of the players were English? I’ve always thought that once a player pulls on the shirt of the club you support, you almost forget where he comes from and he becomes one of “your players”.      

Should FIFA president Sepp Blatter think again about his 6+5 rule that would eventually mean the majority of players have to be either from the home country or developed there? After watching a superb game of football last night I am wondering whether it actually matters.

Mike Collett, London

PHOTO: Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool’s Lucas tussle during their Champions League quarter-final first leg, April 2. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh


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and the game was played in a stadium named after a foreign company and with one of the teams owned by two Americans. Yet I totally agree that it had an English flavour. Why do Xabi Alonso and Gael Clichy et al stick their foot in and run like the clappers far more than they would in their home countries? Surely it cant be just Steven Gerrard egging them on? They just get caught up in the hype, the crowd noise etc. Long may it continue.

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

w000000000000000w that was a nice game..

Posted by john | Report as abusive

I know what you mean but I think it does still matter, and it is a shame there weren;t a lot more English players on the two teams. Dirk Kuyt scored, OK, but is he really any better than any Englishmen Liverpool could have found.

Posted by Luc | Report as abusive

I’d also like to know how these players have become “infected” with some of the better elements of the English game. From a Spanish perspective, it’s good to see some of these players doing well in England, and here’s hoping they can take back some of that ethos back into the national side (though Cesc seems to be having a really tough time adapting to the Aragonés schema).

Posted by Gonzalo | Report as abusive

What a fine Blog: n

Posted by Harry | Report as abusive

While I understand Blatter and Platini’s concerns, but they also sound like men who have grown past their shelf life in the game sometimes and forgot that they were partly responsible (ok, maybe Blatter more than Platini) for the commercialisation of the game. With that comes the clubs’ desire to be the best due to the money that comes with it, and the managers they hire to achieve those results certainly have their own beliefs with regards to what players they need to get there. Furthermore, the agents have also priced their English clients out of the market in the Premier League, and many of them really aren’t as good as some of the imports.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

this more or less seems as “racists”, isn’t football about the best men play and show us the best game of sports :D, and entertain the fans who i am sure are also not all English, in the end the better players deserve to play and don’t we all want to see the best players playing ?

Posted by deep heat | Report as abusive

hy helo every one it good but finshed is bad

Posted by milkias | Report as abusive

you britons are so full of yourselves…… wonder you national team didnt qualify for euro 2008….you are so overrated,and only a change of attitude will recapture your old glory….

Posted by DUNCAN | Report as abusive


I believe the media are responsible for portraying such an image as “full of ourselves” as the general public and supporter of both domestic and international football will tell you in the Uk…we expect nothing more than doom and gloom…the expectancy level is and always will be high as it should be for everybody.

as for our attitude, its spot on, its experience and committment thats lacking.

Posted by GQ J77 | Report as abusive